Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fact Checking Spam

Mayotte Islands
Well, spam is good for at least one thing.  Fact checking practice.

Most spam is easily spotted. There are a few types of letters that seem to get replicated. Two of the more popular are: you've been selected to receive some money, or I need some money...  Usually I delete them without much thought, except to wonder why my spam filter lets them through.

In the the "you've been selected" category, I got this today:

From: Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Subject: ONLINE NOTICE!!!!

United Nations has deposited the sum of $10,500,000.00 USD to western union, which is to be shared among you and other 7 Email users.You are entitled to $1,500,000.00 USD in the on-going united nations poverty alleviation program. Please send your Name,Address & Phone Number, email ID:

to union payment center via email ( to apply for your payment.Or call Mr. David Young @ +60166561422 for more inquiries on the above message.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General (UNITED NATIONS) ©.

Cool. I could use 1.5 M. This email screams "hit delete." Yet it's a real goldmine for fact checking and believability:
  • Ban Ki-moon - yes, he is Secretary-General of the United Nations (but why is he writing to me?)
  • - (a Vietnamese real estate website?);
  • ONLINE NOTICE!!!! (not the message you'd expect if you actually won the money);
  • $10,500,000 USD - too much to be believable?
  • "you and other 7" - Mr. Ban Ki-moon needs some help with English (or maybe he types as well as Illinois' former governor);
  • $1,500,000 - a nice sum and it is one-seventh of 10.5 M, but remember, there are supposedly 8 winners (seven others plus me) so this doesn't add up;
  • Please send your Name, Address & Phone Number, email ID - (stranger danger!)
  • union - check it out: has no believable connection to a payment (payout) center;
  • +60166561422 - what are the chances this is a real phone number? International code 6-Argentina? 60-Germany? 601-Mayotte Isl? (off the east coast of Africa); for no particular reason, I vote for Mayotte;
  • ©. - not sure about the copyright symbol, but this is Ban Ki-moon's biographical page. Nice try.
So many inaccuracies; so many things don't add up. It makes for good fact checking practice.

I've left two juicy fact checking "facts" untouched. Can you find them?

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